Why so serious? Doctors discovered the secret of Monalisa's smile

Among the famous works by Italian Leonardo da Vinci, the one that most catches the public's attention is certainly Monalisa, or Gioconda, as it is also known. The portrait is famous for its enigmatic smile - an expression that has been analyzed since 1503 when the painting was painted.

Currently, the work, which has even been in Napoleon's quarters, is in a special room at the Louvre Museum in Paris (France). And it was just there, waiting in line to meet Monalisa, that doctor Mandeep Mehra, a professor at Harvard Medical School, seems to have unlocked the girl's secret (or da Vinci's, we'll never know).

According to him, the portrait shows clear signs of hypothyroidism, a common disease in Renaissance Italy and even more common today. Mehra explains that during the 1h30 that she waited in line, she became aware of the clinical picture: “I may not know how to observe and analyze works of art, but I certainly know how to make diagnoses, ” he said.

This observation gave rise to the article published the following year, with the analysis of the doctor and his colleague Hilary Campbell, from the University of California Santa Barbara. And the signs are very clear, according to experts.

Lisa Ghirardelli, the portrayed woman, has thin, thin hair, virtually no eyebrows, as well as very yellow eyes and skin. It is literally the picture of thyroid gland dysfunction, which produces and controls hormones important to the body's functioning.

There are two main types of dysfunction: hyperthyroidism, which makes the body work faster than it should; and hypothyroidism, which does not produce enough hormones for good metabolism performance - which would be the case with Lisa.

Doctors also note that the areas around Monalisa's eyes and neck are clearly swollen, which gives strong evidence of the disease. And let's not forget! The enigmatic half smile is another sign of hypothyroidism; As Mehra explains, mild to moderate depression can occur.

“When you have hypothyroidism, your body does not function as it should, and mood tends to depression. You can't give a big smile, ”says the doctor who refutes earlier theories that Monalisa actually had a kind of facial paralysis that kept her from moving her face muscles. The fact that Lisa gave birth to a child shortly before the portrait also reinforces this clinical picture of hormonal dysfunction, since at that time it was not possible to perform treatments of this level.

Another fact that proves the diagnosis of the pair is the feeding of the region at the time the painting was painted. In the 16th century, in Florence, the diet was based on vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage and kale. All have low iodine, which is essential to prevent the disease, especially in women, who are the most prone. Even other Renaissance painters such as Caravaggio and Raphael, for example, made portraits of women with the same symptoms.


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